Badgers Look to Stay on Winning Track against the Boilermakers
Wisconsin football gears up for another road contest, this time in West Lafayette against the Purdue Boilermakers. The Badgers come into the game as heavy favorites, some lines sitting at a 27.5 spread. However, if you go off recency, you can see that anything is possible in College Football if you overlook your opponent. The Badgers come into the game at 8-2, sitting a top of the Big Ten West while Purdue comes in at 3-7 and sits in last in the Big Ten with just one conference win over Illinois. Saturday’s contest marks the 84th meeting between the Boilermakers and the Badgers, with Wisconsin winning the last ten contests in a row. Its a one sided affair that the Badgers will look to continue on Saturday afternoon. Wisconsin Football sits at #7 in the College Football Playoff, but with Louisville falling ahead of them on Thursday night and removing themselves from the conversation, it looks as though the Badgers will move up again if they can take care of business on Saturday. Once again, the Badgers control their own destiny in terms of postseason play. How do the Badgers stay on track and come away with a victory in West Lafayette?
In terms of pure on the field skill, its clear that Purdue is a much lesser team than what Wisconsin is in terms of talent. With that, being on the road, poor weather, in an early game, means that many teams would come out flat against the Boilermakers. I don’t expect that for Wisconsin, if you’ve watched this team week in and week out its clear to see that the Badgers play with a different sort of fire no matter the opponent. Coming into the season, Wisconsin Football was severely overlooked so they know what its like to be on the opposite side of the spectrum. That being said the Badgers should look to put this game away as early as possible. Purdue is the definition of a pest team. They hang around, just long enough to make you feel antsy and give them a bit of a confidence boost that they can play with you. In the first half of the Nebraska, Penn State, Northwestern AND Minnesota game Purdue has managed to stay within striking distance against opponents in the first half. While they have still came out with a loss in each of those contests, you can see how it can give a team the ability to hang around and do something nobody expects. The Badgers are 14-2 under Paul Chryst when scoring first, and 11-2 when leading after the first quarter. If the Badgers can come out and knock the Boilermakers in the mouth to start, they should have no trouble getting a victory.
Much like Illinois, Purdue loves to throw the pigskin. Sophomore quarterback David Blough has attempted 442 passes this season, throwing for almost 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns. The downside for Blough and Purdue is the interceptions as he has recorded 16 so far this season. Its a similar game plan to last weeks Illinois games, and if the Badgers can force turnovers the way they did last week they should be in for a giant victory. The Badgers forced four interceptions last week, and Blough is even more likely to throw than Illinois was. If the Badgers are able to confuse the young quarterback with different schemes and blitzes they should have the ability to force mistakes and limit the big plays.
While Blough clearly makes mistakes, its important to note that he is also the biggest threat in Purdue’s offense as he is their #1 playmaker. Purdue has had 38 plays over 20 yards this season, and Blough is responsible for 36 of them. The offense goes through him, and Wisconsin’s defensive backs will have to be ready to defend that. They proved that they can defend an air raid type offense already this season, and if Wisconsin can limit the big plays and force the turnovers they should have no issue winning big on Saturday.
Weather could play a big factor in Saturday’s contest as the forecast calls for cold, rain and heavy wind gusts. While the forecast may seem mucky, it gives UW that much more of an advantage. Wisconsin’s normal ground heavy game isn’t bothered by the weather, while Purdue could have trouble throwing the ball as much as they do. The nice thing for Wisconsin? They can pretty much rely on either one. Purdue has a long history of defensive struggle against the Badgers, in both the running and passing game. The Badgers have had 15 200+ yard passers against Purdue, the most recent coming a season ago when Joel Stave threw for 322 yards against the Boilermakers. The Badgers have also had six 200+ yard rushers against the Boilermakers with the most recent being Melvin Gordon. The history is there, and Wisconsin has the ability to do much of the same on Saturday. With the weather taking a turn, its likely that the Badgers will opt to pound the football as Purdue ranks 122 out of 128 in rushing defense. They’ve given up 30+ points in seven of their contests this season, so the Badgers should have no issue getting the ball in the end zone. Look for Clement and Ogunbowale to get a heavy dose, but the Badgers won’t be afraid to turn to the air if they need to.